SB 288: Sustainable Transportation and the “Road to Recovery” for Post-COVID Air Pollution and Unemployment Concerns

At the end of the 2020 legislative session, California Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 288 (Wiener)[1] (SB 288) into law.  SB 288, amends the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), streamlining the environmental review process for: (i) specific transportation-related projects, including bus rapid transit projects, light rail service projects, construction or maintenance of charging or refueling stations for zero-emission buses; (ii) projects that improve customer information and wayfinding for transit riders, bicyclists, or pedestrians; (iii) city or county projects designed to minimize parking requirements; and (iv) similar transportation oriented projects.  Specifically, SB 288 designates these projects necessary to facilitate development of sustainable transportation alternatives and related infrastructure, encouraging broader use of sustainable transit throughout the state.  Due to this designation, SB 288 exempts these projects from CEQA review as categorical exemptions beginning January 1, 2021.  SB 288 is slated to sunset on January 1, 2030.  In addition, SB 288 extends the existing exemption for bicycle transportation plans (including restriping of streets and highways, bicycle parking and storage, signage, and related improvements to intersection operations) from the existing sunset date[2] to January 1, 2030. Continue Reading

California Housing Legislation 2020

Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a number of housing bills into law that were passed by the Legislature this session ending on August 31, 2020.  Due to the severe scheduling constraints placed on lawmakers by the COVID-19 pandemic among other challenges, the Legislature was only able to pass a small number of bills related to housing and tenant protections, despite beginning the year with over 100 bills under consideration.  Most notably, some of the most ambitious pieces of legislation including five of the bills in the State Senate’s Housing Production Package all failed to pass before the midnight deadline on August 31, 2020.  We will continue to monitor the Legislature’s efforts to spur additional housing production in California as we head into the Fall recess and the new legislative session starting on December 7, 2020.  Below is a summary of the bills signed by the Governor on August 28, 2020.  These bills take effect on January 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted. Continue Reading

Residential Eviction Protections and California Consumer Financial Protections Pass Muster During 2020 Legislative Session

During the eleventh hour of the 2020 legislative session, the California Legislature approved 2 significant bills in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the potential to have far-reaching ramifications for mortgage servicers. Continue Reading

Army Corps of Engineers Proposes Revising Broad Range of Clean Water Act Nationwide Permits

On September 15, 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers published proposed revisions to a wide range of Nationwide Permits (NWP) issued under the Clean Water Act.  The revisions respond to Executive Order 13783, directing heads of federal agencies to review existing regulations that potentially burden development or use of domestically produced energy resources.  Accordingly, the proposed revisions affect NWPs commonly utilized by utility-scale wind and solar energy projects throughout the country.  The Corps will accept comments on the proposed revisions until November 16, 2020.  Here are highlights from the proposed revisions. Continue Reading

New Proposed Regulation Provides More Guidance and Some Relief on Prop 65 Warning Requirements for Heat Processed Foods and Acrylamide

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) recently proposed a regulation that would provide more certainty to businesses regarding the Proposition 65 (“Prop 65”) warning requirements for cooked foods.  The proposed regulation is intended to incentivize businesses to lower the concentration levels in foods, encourage consistency and predictability, and ensure that warnings will be given for the foods causing the highest levels of exposure. Continue Reading

California Supreme Courts Holds Categorical Classification of Well Permits As Exclusively “Ministerial” Does Not Hold Water

After a nearly two-year wait, in Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus (2020) __ Cal.5th ____ (POWER), the California Supreme Court unanimously rejected the County of Stanislaus’s (County) bright-line categorization that all groundwater well construction permits are ministerial, and therefore not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  In an interesting twist, the Supreme Court also rejected the petitioner’s alternative “all or nothing” position that, if the permits are not ministerial, they must be discretionary and conditioned on CEQA compliance.  Instead, the Supreme Court held the decision of whether each permit is ministerial or discretionary hinges on the specific language of the governing ordinance and regulatory controls.[1] Continue Reading

The Pandemic’s Impacts on Developers and Contractors May Call for Seldom-Used Relief: An Overview of the Principles of Force Majeure, Impracticability, and Frustration of Purpose

This article originally appeared in the California Lawyers Association’s Real Property, Environmental and Public Law Journals Joint Issue.

As society responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, states and local governments across the United States, including the State of California, issued shelter-in place (“SIP”) orders[i] to prevent its spread. While intended to benefit Americans in the long run, these actions have resulted in massive and largely unprecedented disruptions in the economy, including record levels of unemployment and sharply limiting the ability of businesses to provide, and customers to purchase, goods and services.[ii] The effects of the pandemic are wide spread and have created financial hardships for individuals and families in every state and locality, as well as inexplicable shortages of toilet paper.[iii]

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County Zoning Ordinance Cannot be Used to Justify Property Seizure

In Granny Purps v. County of Santa Cruz, the Sixth District Court of Appeal green-lit a medical cannabis cultivator’s ability to pursue damages – to the tune of potentially $3.5M – from the County of Santa Cruz when it determined the County cannot rely on zoning ordinance to seize the cultivator’s plants grown in violation of local regulation. Specifically, the Sixth District found that, while the County is not compelled to return seized property if the property is illegal, the local ordinance at issue “ultimately regulates land use within the County; it does not (nor could it) render illegal a substance that is legal under state law.” Continue Reading

Splitting The Roll – Commercial And Industrial Property Owners May Face Significant California Property Tax Increases Starting As Early As The 2022-2023 Fiscal Year

California’s Proposition 13 prevents the assessed value of California real property from increasing by more than 2% per year, unless there is a change of ownership or completion of new construction.  On November 3, 2020, California voters will decide whether most commercial and industrial property should be removed from the protections of Proposition 13, with the result that such property would be subject to tax based on its fair market value. Continue Reading

Final Revisions to NEPA Regulations: Six Highlights from Major Rule Overhaul

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recently published a final rule (Rule) revising the implementing regulations for the National Environmental Quality Act (42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq ) (NEPA).  Touted as the first comprehensive revision of CEQ’s NEPA regulations since their creation in 1978, the stated goal of the Rule includes facilitating more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA review by federal agencies. Continue Reading

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